Edel MacBride should have been making her daughter’s dream wedding dress this month.
The renowned knitwear designer was set to have her “best year ever”, packed with family celebrations and knitting tours abroad.
But those plans unraveled with the outbreak of coronavirus.
Suddenly, Edel found herself spearheading a major campaign to deliver scrubs to nurses and doctors battling Covid-19.
Thanks to #PledgeScrubs, up to 2,000 sets of scrubs will be donated to frontline workers – all made in Donegal and funded by kind donations from the public.
The plight of one nurse inspired this entire operation. Edel was moved by a photo she saw of a primary care nurse who had bought a bedsheet in Argos to get made into trousers. This woman’s lack of PPE led Edel on a search for local manufacturers – and she soon found that Moville Clothing had switched from producing clerical shirts and legal attire to health service uniforms at cost price.
Edel tweeted out a number for the factory and her phone hasn’t stopped since.
Only then did she realise that scrubs were so badly needed by staff on both sides of the border.
And the unnamed nurse in the photo? Edel discovered that she had a remarkable connection to her already, as she had made her bridal accessories 13 years ago.
Edel was inspired by this woman to call Moville Clothing and pledge money to buy scrubs for staff in need. She asked her family and friends if they would like to do the same. She then invited the wider public to get involved, and suddenly she was marketing a large scale fund with €72,000 pledged so far.
“People got locked into the fact that this was something they could do for others, to say thank you. Gifting scrubs is a practical solution. I was feeling frustration for the workers and every worker that had to go to work,” Edel told Donegal Woman.
“Initially I imagined getting scrubs to ICU staff but the minute the fund went up my phone started going crazy.”
While Moville Clothing continues with its own orders, Edel fields calls from individual staff who would like a set of scrubs gifted to them.
Many are packed and hand-delivered by Edel and her helpers, with social-distancing practices adhered to. While she is unable to provide large bulk orders, the gifts have brought great relief to recipients.
“I was on the phone to a staff nurse in Ramelton and she couldn’t believe they were free. She said I was like the scrub fairy. Another person told me the gift was “one less worry”,” Edel said.
As busy as she is, working voluntarily, Edel is enjoying being the ‘scrub fairy’. Pledged scrubs have been delivered to staff in 20 counties in Ireland so far. The magic lies in the very real impact the campaign is having.
“The fulfilment of it is massive. This went so big so fast,” Edel said.
“To think I was looking forward to making my daughter’s wedding dress and her bridesmaid dresses this month.”
Edel’s daughter Emma was due to get married in Raphoe at the end of May, but this has been postponed. They had already had a trial of a dress created, while they explored colours for bridesmaid dresses. Edel was going to make her own mother of the bride outfit too.
“This was going to be the best year ever. I had the business I had in for a year. I was supposed to be co-leading a nine day knitting trip to Shetland that took a year to plan. Then we’d have the wedding. My June and October were completely booked out too.
“Now everything has just disappeared. Maybe this is good,” she said.
Edel is planning to bring the GoFundMe to €80,000 in order to provide for 2,000 sets of scrubs. She has not yet decided what to do after that.
“Will I keep going? It depends on demand and if more money comes in to PledgeScrubs. And I have to seriously think about what I am going to do to make a living,” she said.
The campaign is an all-island initiative and the scale has led Edel to realise the huge level of demand and the amount of goodwill out there for staff in difficult situations.
“Really the HSE and NHS should have orders in, and these nurses shouldn’t be ringing me,” she said.
“But I was very clear, this is a way for people to communicate your gratitude to the frontline. Now, it’s much more complicated. You have so many different layers of healthcare.
“As for the HSE, you can have some sympathy with the fact that it’s ginormous in terms of structure. But as a business person you know that there are other ways to simplify.
“Look what it has taken for people to realise that these staff are human beings who are basically risking their lives.
“I saw a post saying ‘not all heroes wear capes, they wear scrubs’. That isn’t sitting with me. They are not heroes, they are martyrs. They are going into something that is beyond what is being asked of them,” she said.
The campaign recognises that every layer of healthcare staff is on the frontline in some manner, and providing them with good quality scrubs is one less worry.
“I originally wanted to highlight the story of Moville Clothing – this company in Donegal that I trust in their manufacturing and their sustainability. That factor has dimmed because the demand for scrubs is so great,” Edel said.
Edel’s business knowledge has played a huge part in getting the project off the ground so quickly. An initiative like this would have taken months to plan in ordinary times. In the last three weeks, Edel admits that she has never done anything so dramatic so fast.
“From starting my business at 22 with zero, I was always wanting to do what was impossible,” she said.
#PledgeScrubs as also led to Moville being Ireland’s first Soundtown 2020 competition winner on TodayFM. Thanks to their community effort, Moville is now in the running to be crowned ‘Ireland’s Soundest Town’.
As for Edel, she has over 1,400 donors and countless supporters to thank for the success of this very well-designed Donegal scheme.
Details on how to donate or how to request a gifted set is available on https://www.gofundme.com/f/pledgescrubs?fbclid=IwAR25Us5izcd6uUi4GGx2FSzJXi32IVUCxpmnuGtgNcFlSzmXr7VrXPgm0IA